Understanding "under law"

For those who need a quick and short study about what "the law" is, you may find this article helpful. Let's look at a commonly misunderstood and erroneously taught collection of passages from Romans.

By Dr. Robin Gould, D.R.E., LMFT

Romans 4: 15 "Because law brings wrath."

Most people teach that since "the law brings wrath," that the law itself is evil…even though YHWH continuously declares that the law is truth; bringing prosperity, joy, liberty, life and harmony. What they are missing is that the law only brings wrath to the debtor…the lawless. For example, the laws forbidding rape do not bring wrath to those who are not raping. They bring wrath to those who ARE raping. They bring liberty to the community in that a woman or child is supposed to be able to walk the street without fear of being assaulted.

But continue reading this passage:

"...because the law brings wrath. Where there is no law there is no transgression."

Here you can see that if there was no law there could be no sin, as the law is clearly the definer of sin as the permanent standard of measurement (1 John 3:4). This makes sense since the Most High has taught us His ways and, according to Him, He does not change. Also, I believe that the imposed punctuation here confuses the matter. Remember that all punctuation is added by the translators and was not in the original text often reflecting translational theological bias. I believe it should read: "Because the law brings wrath, where there is no law there is no transgression."

Collectively, we have all fallen short, so everyone deserves wrath. Paul isn't saying that once the penalty is paid that the law is taken away, but this is what some people are teaching. The common interpretation of this passage is that if you want sin to be taken away, take away the measurement standard. This makes as much sense as, in the effort to improve education, teachers reducing the difficulty of tests if test scores become the measurement standard rather than increasing the quality of teaching. Most don't realize that is what they are actually thinking until it is pointed out to them, as I am doing now.

The "good news" is NOT that the holy law of the Most High has been altered, removed, or no longer to be literally practiced. The good news is that the Messiah died to pay our penalty for the debt we have accrued! He didn't change the test. He gave us quality blood.

If the Messiah died so that the holy words of instruction spoken to us by the Most High were to be contradicted, that would NOT be good news at all. Not only would it render most of the scriptures completely contradictory, it would be anarchy.

"Sir, you have been found guilty for your crime. Happily for you, your debt has been paid by someone else. Do you accept that as your payment? Good. You are free to go. Oh, and one more thing. Now that your debt has been paid we can see how unfair that law you broke was (even though we judged you should be penalized for breaking it) so you are free to engage in that behavior anytime you wish. As of this day forward, that action will no longer be a crime."

The laws were never given so that one day in the future people could "violate them with faith that there is no more violation." They are His unchanging ways, given for our good and for His delight. Our violations of them are not to be viewed as "freedom," or celebrated simply because they are cleansed.

The One WHO CLEANSES US is to be celebrated, while the violations are to be continued to be hated. Violating His law with no regard while resting in the pardon is NOT the true test of Messianic faith as is being promoted by the Western church. Resting in the pardon IS the test of faith in the JUSTIFICATION He provided, for sure, but not as an alternative to loving His ways. We are sanctified by His word…set apart. We are to TRUST HIS WORD to be what sanctifies us, and to trust His atonement for what justifies us.

Remember what the serpent suggested to Adam's wife? "Hey, that restriction wasn't for your good…it limited you! If you disobey Him, you will actually be CLOSER to Him, You'll be like Him!"

Romans 6: 25 "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

Clearly we can see that the Messiah died for our transgressions of the law, for when we failed to meet the holy standard, wherein He paid the penalty. Nowhere in the scriptures will you find that the Messiah died because the law was unfair, unrighteous, or harmful to our well-being.

Romans 6: 15. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!"

Being "under law" means: "Found guilty and scheduled for wrath/penalty." Being "under grace" means: "Found guilty but not scheduled for wrath/penalty because the Messiah, who suffered the ultimate penalty, has taken your penalty out of the way."

Sin means to transgress the law, thus incurring penalty. "No longer under law" does not mean we are no longer accountable to the standard of law (His ways), but that we are no longer accountable to the penalty the law brings for breaking it.

Plug in these law definitions in Romans 6:15 and this will help people who have been taught, despite the repetitive instruction throughout the bible that the Messiah came to take away OUR SIN, that He in fact changed what righteousness behavior looked like. On the contrary; He did NOT come, nor was it prophesied that He would come, to alter Yah's standards, change the definition of sin, or place suspicion on the truth or practical application of the instructions of the Old Testament. People misunderstanding Paul in Romans are basically saying that the Messiah made obedience to the Torah a crime against Him.

Plugging in the definitions of the words, here is what we get:

Romans 6: 15 "What then? Shall we transgress the law and incur penalty because we are no longer scheduled to pay the penalty but have had our penalty taken away by the Messiah? By no means!"

This jives with the rest of the bible. This also jives with the rest of Romans, IF, as Paul asserts in Romans 7:1, you KNOW the law. If you don't know the law, you, according to Paul, are not qualified to interpret his letter.

Hope this helps you when people try to use Romans as a license to feed their children pork or fail to keep the Sabbath!

NOTE: Robin Gould, D.R.E., LMFT has a Master's Degree in Marriage & Family Therapy and a Doctorate in Religious Education. Practicing as a therapist since 2001, Dr. Gould specializes in Emotionally Focused Couple's Therapy and is currently conferencing on marital health, relationships, and attachment. She also travels as a lecturer and public speaker enlightening Christians to the Messiah in the Old Testament, as well as emphasizing the relational attachment aspects of the Torah to the Messianic Believer. The proud mother of two grown sons, Dr. Gould currently resides in Vermont with her husband.